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Europe bike travel: Doubts

Travel Forums Europe Europe bike travel: Doubts

1. Posted by Portugal93 (Budding Member 6 posts) 6y

Hi all,

I've done some backpacking in Portugal, but nothing at the scale of what I'm planning. Since I have 3 month Summer Holidays, approximately 90 to 100 days, I'm planning a big bike travel through some parts of Europe. I'll divide my plans in topics so that understanding is easier:

Itinerary

Since I'm Portuguese, I would start in Lisbon, Portugal, and head to Madrid. There, I would head north to Bilbao to catch a ferry on to France. In France, I would head north again to head to Paris, then north to Brussels and finally, Amsterdam.
Notice that I only refer the capitals of each country on my bike ride, yet, I would pass through other cities to enjoy the landscapes (of course).
On my way back, I would like to return through Germany, where I would enter France near the border with Switzerland, and head to Marseille to catch a ferry to Barcelona. In Barcelona, I would head south to the Mediterranean coast in Spain, and enter in Portugal through Ayamonte (Spain), where, when in Portugal, I would head north again to Lisbon.

Budget

For this trip, I'm planning to take at least 1500 euros, because it is almost 4000km, and I do not have to worry about food (always). I've met some travelers that had lunch and/or dinner in restaurants throughout Europe in exchange for a service, such as washing the dishes or cleaning the restaurant.

Company

With me, I have three friends that are planning this.

Rest Places

European countries are never short of camping sites. Higyene, rest, or socialization is important (in my point of view) to estabilish contacts, in case problems arise. Me and my friends are not planning to rest in the capitals, except for Amsterdam, the "finish line".

Back-up Plan

Back-up plans are important. Besides the 1500 euros for the trip, we will have 500 euros in an account in case we need a plane back home.

Time

According to my calculations (not always right), The trip would take at least 60 to 70 days, plus 10 days for possible setbacks.

Please, comment this and give your opinion for each topic aI wrote. Every help will be truly appreciated. Thank you.

2. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

Hi,

I don't think you'll have too many problems.

The route and the timeframe sound good. The kilometers per day that you intend to cover are ok too. Your budget might be a bit low though, you should plan on having around 25 EUR per day.

You can expect to pay around 10-20 EUR per night for staying on camping sites, laundry every 7 days will be around 5 EUR and food from restaurants won't be cheap either. You should reasonably budget around 10 EUR per day and person for food if you buy everything from the supermarket, if you eat at restaurants once in while 15 EUR per day and person would be more sensible.

Add in entry fees to sights and the occassional beer and night out and you will see that over the course of 60-80 days 1500 EUR are nothing. I would suggest 2000 EUR plus the cost of the ferries and 500 EUR for emergencies.

As for camping wild to reduce costs: For most of your route camping wild is not an option. The French insist that you use the communal camping sites and the Dutch take a very dim view of it too. Germans are generally ok with it, but if you are going down the Rhine you'll encounter some of the most densely populated areas in Europe. Not very good if you plan to camp wild.

What kind of gear do you have? Do you need any tips on what maps or books to use?

3. Posted by Portugal93 (Budding Member 6 posts) 6y

Hi again,

Thank you for your advices.

As I said, I've never done anything at this scale. Therefore the gear I have is the same as the gear I used for backpacking, except for the bike: Survival gear (A Swiss Knife; First Aid Kit); Camping gear (Tent; sleeping bag; sleeping pad; flashlight; personal hygiene products; a portable water filter; among other objects); Clothes; IDs; Orientation Gear (Compass; GPS cellphone; Maps); and, of course, food and water.

Wild camping is something that I never thought of, because I do not know the environment, food and/or water sources, and, as you said, the French and the Dutch take a dim view of it.

Please, tips are welcome, orientation is important.

Thank you.

4. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

As I said, I've never done anything at this scale. Therefore the gear I have is the same as the gear I used for backpacking, except for the bike:

Have you cycle-toured before? With a tent and the other camping gear?

What about clothing, do you have clothes specifically made for cycling or do you intend to go off in jeans? What about the other people in your party? What are their levels of fitness?

I strongly recommend that you try to go on a practise trip, say 5-10 days if you can find the time. It will help you tremendously figuring out what you really need.

Decent panniers are also essential - what brand do you have?

Wild camping is something that I never thought of, because I do not know the environment, food and/or water sources,

As a cyclist you follow the aspalt roads, supermarkets and water is easy to find. Take 2 x 1.5 liter plastic bottles, if one is empty it is very easy to stop in a village and ask for water from a local. Stock up on food and water when you can, usually in the early afternoon.

It is easy pitching a tent roadside, all you have to do is make sure you are gone the next morning. There are several strategies, once you have done it a few times you can easily spot places where you can camp. Also many people will allow you to borrow a patch of land for the night. Tip: Don't ask directly to camp on their land. Ask "Do you know where I could pitch the tent for the night? I am tired and just cannot go on any further." It makes people far more likely to suggest their own garden or meadow and be helpful to you.

5. Posted by Portugal93 (Budding Member 6 posts) 6y

Have you cycle-toured before? With a tent and the other camping gear?

Yes, twice, but it was only throughout Alentejo, a zone in Portugal that is roughly the size of the Badden-Württemberg Bündeslander. I made it with my friends as well.

What about clothing, do you have clothes specifically made for cycling or do you intend to go off in jeans? What about the other people in your party? What are their levels of fitness?

I have appropriate clothing for cycling, I bought it in a sotre called Decathlon, I think you've heard of it (?). In my group of friends, the fitness levels are very high. We all practice sports every day and ride bike through Lisbon every weekends. Sometimes, when we have a little more time, we cycle through Lisbon more than one time. We also ride on rocky paths, to practice our balance and to give us more phisical condition.

I strongly recommend that you try to go on a practise trip, say 5-10 days if you can find the time. It will help you tremendously figuring out what you really need.

Since my bike trip is scheduled for 2011, we are planning practice wonders through Portugal. So, regarding o the practice, I think that it is well framed.

Decent panniers are also essential - what brand do you have?

All the panners I used were borrowed from a friend of mine, I haven't bought them yet for my bike, and I don't recall the brand of those I used. Yet, I would appreciate if you tell me what brands do you suggest.

Regarding to the advices of rest and food supply, thank you, me and my friends will keep that in mind.

Post 6 was removed by a moderator
7. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

In my group of friends, the fitness levels are very high. We all practice sports every day and ride bike through Lisbon every weekends.

In this case I think you might cover more than the 70 kms per day that you originally planned. If all of you cycle more than 30 kms during your rides through Lisbon I think that you might manage 100 kms per day, especially on flat terrain.

I have appropriate clothing for cycling, I bought it in a sotre called Decathlon, I think you've heard of it (?

That is reassuring. I personally don't like Decathlon, I am a leisure cyclist and prefer clothing that is less "lycra"; an example would be the Vaude Lakeside Pants combined with a trekking shirt. But whatever works for you. :)

Tip: The German company jeantex is going out of business, they will be selling their stock at a discount soon. They have very good raingear and cycling clothing at decent prices. The Jeantex Toulouse Bike Pant is a classic, it is especially interesting if you need long or short sizes. I'll definitely grab a rain jacket from them before they close.

We also ride on rocky paths, to practice our balance and to give us more phisical condition.

This sounds like you do MTB. What kind of bike do you have? MTB-Bikes are not that good for touring, especially Fullys can be problematic. Hybrid (MTB-Road) bikes are better.

Panniers: I think one of the best ways to get good panniers at a bargain is to pick them up on ebay.de. There are several brands, the most prominent being Ortlieb. Pros and Cons:

MSX - decent quality and the best price-value ratio. A set of rear panniers (SLR 55) should be around 50 EUR plus shipping. I have those and I am completely happy with them. Downside of MSX: they are a bit heavy and the quality is not as good as Ortlieb.

Northwind - forget them. Ok for hauling home groceries, but you do not want to battle with the clasps on the road. Since they cost more than the MSX and are a worse quality there is absolutely no reason to buy them.

Vaude - more expensive than Ortlieb, but for some cyclists the better choice because of their features.

Ortlieb - ask a German and s/he will tell you there is no better. Personally I think their prices are obscene, but if you really use them everyday for 10+ years they will be worth every cent. The "Backroller Classic" are the panniers that are most commonly used, if you do not want to spend a lot of money yet want better quality than the MSX these are the best choice. However there are some lighter, but maybe less durable materials and models. I'll gladly get into them if you want me to.

8. Posted by Portugal93 (Budding Member 6 posts) 6y

In this case I think you might cover more than the 70 kms per day that you originally planned. If all of you cycle more than 30 kms during your rides through Lisbon I think that you might manage 100 kms per day, especially on flat terrain.

In fact, you have a point there. I told the same to my friends, but they hesitated to accept so. Lisbon has the longest ciclo-road in Europe, through and around the Monsanto forest. I guess they are a bit lazy, despite their great shape. :)

This sounds like you do MTB. What kind of bike do you have? MTB-Bikes are not that good for touring, especially Fullys can be problematic. Hybrid (MTB-Road) bikes are better.

We do a lot of MTB, but all of our bikes are hybrid. I don't exactly know the brand, but I think that mine's very good. I have it for years and it never had a single problem. Works perfectly everywhere, also because I clean it and check the pieces once a week.

Panniers: I think one of the best ways to get good panniers at a bargain is to pick them up on ebay.de. There are several brands, the most prominent being Ortlieb.

I never checked on E-Bay or bought something trough it. But I heard from my older brother and from my cousin that the German E-Bay is the better, because it has the most accessible prices. My cousin bought an Ajax and Bayern München football shirts, and they were very cheap, but their quality is very good, indeed.
I'll check between Ortlieb and MSX.

Thank you.

PS: Do you have any tips for good road maps in Europe?

9. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

I don't exactly know the brand, but I think that mine's very good. I have it for years and it never had a single problem. Works perfectly everywhere, also because I clean it and check the pieces once a week.

Take a look at the designations on the parts: Do they say Shimano Deore or Shimano Deore LX? If yes you will not have to worry. Deore and Deore LX are the best, the other series are usually not durable enough.

Do you have any tips for good road maps in Europe?

For planning try the Michelin maps, 1:100.000 or 1:200.000 should be detailed enough.

For more detailed information go for maps on a smaller scale.

The Dutch have some decent maps. You want the "ANWB Fietskaarten met knooppuntensysteem (1:75.000)".

Aside from maps look at cycling guides. Check out the bikeline books, especially for the Rhine:

http://www.stanfords.co.uk/stock/europe-bikeline-atlases-of-long-distance-cycling-routes/

http://www.esterbauer.com/db_rtb_allg.php?land_id=FR&reihe_id=RB

You should also be able to buy them on amazon.de.

10. Posted by Portugal93 (Budding Member 6 posts) 6y

Take a look at the designations on the parts: Do they say Shimano Deore or Shimano Deore LX? If yes you will not have to worry. Deore and Deore LX are the best, the other series are usually not durable enough.

They say Shimano Deore. In fact, all of my friends's bikes have that designation.

Thanks for the tips, you really helped me a lot! Now I'll do my bike journey a lot better, since I'm aware of what to do or not to do.

Thank you very much, my best regards to you.-